Curtis Woody: A Struggle for Dignity

A Struggle for Dignity: An Artistic Exploration of Slavery and Emancipation is an exhibition that visually explores slavery and its after effects in Prince George’s County. Artist Curtis G Woody presents his interpretations of the lifestyles and complexities of African Americans in Prince George’s County from the late 1600’s through the late 1800’s using mixed media collages that he calls quilt paintings. Woody incorporates images of Adinkra symbols, segments of authentic slave narratives, natural elements, replicas of old newspaper articles, and photographs. These works of art offer a powerful, spiritual, sensitive ongoing experience and at times are biting commentary on the institution of slavery.

A Struggle for Dignity: An Artistic Exploration of Slavery and Emancipation A Series by Curtis G Woody

Curatorial Statement

This exhibition is the Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center’s first exhibition dealing with the complicated and sometimes controversial topic of slavery in America. Since 1642, Prince George’s County has wrestled with this peculiar institution. With major slave markets in Baltimore and Annapolis, Prince George’s County became an ideal place for plantation owners to import slaves to work their tobacco crops. In many ways, slavery came to define the African American experience. The relationships between slaves, their masters, and non-slaves have come to define cotemporary racial and class dynamics. Equally important is the struggle that African Americans would continue to face after emancipation.

Curtis Woody is an artist living and working in Prince George’s County. He has been active since the mid-1970s and has used multiple media throughout his career. He was commissioned by the Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council to create 23 pieces on the subject of slavery and emancipation in Prince George’s County. Woody built each piece with a quilt like block background and layered each piece with images and documents dealing with slavery. The result is a unique and informative exploration of the slave experience in Prince George’s County.

This exhibition’s 23 pieces each highlight a particular aspect of slavery in the county. They are overall in chronological order, but sometimes themes overlap to emphasize the complicated issues that continued throughout and after slavery. Family dynamics, conflict and education, among other topics, are addressed in the exhibition and leave the viewer wanting to learn more. The PGAAMCC hosts this exhibit in two different locations, here at Gallery 110 at 3901 Rhode Island Avenue and the last 4 panels at the Museum’s administrative office at 4519 Rhode Island Avenue in North Brentwood. We encourage everyone to experience all 23 pieces, which hopefully will spark conversation and exploration to learn more about slavery in Prince George’s County. Visitors are also encouraged to respond and comment about the exhibit via the Museum’s blog at

Slavery’s impact should not be forgotten and should be discussed in productive ways. This exhibition will hopefully be a catalyst for starting or continuing these conversations as a small step toward understanding and reconciling of the realities of American slavery.

-Jon West-Bey, Curator, PGAAMCC

The exhibition is sponsored in part by the Prince George’s Arts & Humanities Council and will be on display at the Prince George’s African American Museum until October 27th 2012.

For more information call 301.809.0440.